Is it safe to say 2010 was the year of the cupcake? I think the answer is a resounding yes. There's everything from "Cupcake Wars" on our televisions to Iron Cupcake challenges in our own backyard. Cupcake imagery graces everything from jewelry to bicycles, and clothing.
Yep, cupcakes sure are cute. But what about the actual cupcakes? The ones you eat? Or in my case, devour oh-so classy like. Those are hard to come by, believe it or not. Our fair city isn't exactly the cupcake capitol of the world, until this past November when Classy Girl Cupcakes opened shop in their brand new beautiful bakery at 825 N. Jefferson St. in Cathedral Square. I spoke with Sara Hanson who co-owns the Classy Girl cupcakery with Erica Elia. Turns out, they're no strangers to these lil' cakes o' cups.
OnMilwaukee.com: Who are the classy gals behind Classy Girl Cupcakes?
Sara Hanson: The classy girls behind the operation are owners, best friends and sisters-in-law, Sara Hanson and Erica Elia. We also have Rachel Ester, a part-time baker who is quickly working her way up the Classy Girl ranks. Between the two of us, Erica does the baking because quite honestly I can barely make a bowl of canned soup. With her baking expertise and my education in business we divide our responsibilities accordingly. Erica was a lawyer previously, so she also makes sure we always have everything up to par on the legal side.
OMC: How did you get started baking cakes o' cups?
SH: This business began after Erica made the cupcakes for her own wedding in August of 2009. While looking for a vendor she discovered that nobody offered the cheesecake cupcakes she was looking for, and if she went with a cake she would be looking at the cake cost plus a cutting fee that could be as much as $2 per person. Even with a smaller wedding like hers the cutting fee could reach as high as an additional $150! That's when she decided it would be best if she just made all of the cupcakes herself for her wedding--which is no small task. The cupcakes she made were such a big hit that she decided it might be fun to try this as a side business, so while renting a commercial kitchen and running the business out of our homes, Erica and I began.
Erica made our Web site, ClassyGirlCupcakes.com, with little programming knowledge, and somehow (knock on wood!) it ranks very high on search results, and we started getting inquiries for weddings and orders from all over the country. We catered over 35 weddings last summer and fall, and we even baked cupcakes for the band Kings of Leon when they were in town! With such a tremendous response, we started daydreaming about opening the first cupcake bakery in Milwaukee where all the cupcakes are made from scratch and cupcake lovers everywhere could find fun cupcake themed gifts. After months of daydreaming, we put our feet to the pavement and somehow got lucky and found our awesome Jefferson Street location!
OMC: Do you bake anything other than cupcakes?
SH: Other than cupcakes we do offer Erica's "world famous" cookies (please don't ask us to provide documentation on the world famous claim, as it only exists in our heads), pound cake for people who want to trick themselves into thinking they're NOT actually eating a cupcake before noon, our exclusive blend of Anodyne coffee made to compliment cupcakes, Rishi tea and various bottled beverages. With over 35 flavors of cheesecake cupcakes and 15 flavors of cake cupcakes (which will increase as we continue to invent recipes), we truly have something for everyone. On a daily basis, we offer 8-10 flavors of cake cupcakes and at least a dozen cheesecake cupcake flavors. We don't have a flavor schedule, but we try to post the flavors every few days on our Facebook page, and we can always bake special orders with a couple days notice.
OMC: What flavors are your most popular?
SH: It's difficult to pick our most popular flavors with so many to choose from, as everybody likes something different. We bake two types of cupcakes- traditional cake cupcakes and our exclusive line of specialty cheesecake cupcakes, which no other bakery in the country offers. I guess if I had to pick a few of our most popular they would be the red velvet, carrot cake, and Ghirardelli chocolate cake cupcakes, and the white chocolate raspberry, caramel apple, and turtle cheesecake cupcakes. As I mentioned though, we are always throwing new flavor ideas around, so the most popular could change at any time! For example, this week we have a few new flavors of cheesecake cupcakes Erica came up with that aren't on the website yet- root beer float, dark chocolate orange, and toffee almond fudge. Mmmmmm.
OMC: Your bricks 'n' mortar bakery is so adorable I could cry cute tears. How long have you been open?
SH: Thank you, we love our store! Don't cry cute tears though, cupcakes are only supposed to make people happy! When designing the store, we decided we wanted more than a bakery, so we also offer quite a few retail products as well, such as T-shirts, aprons, jewelry, greeting cards and a large assortment of other cupcake-related items. We even offer cupcake shaped bandages and frosting flavored dental floss! Our retail items have proven to be about as popular as the cupcakes, so we're always on the lookout for new ideas.
We have been open since Nov. 23 and so far we couldn't be happier! We are open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and we're closed on Sundays at the moment. Because we are still new, we're kind of gauging what hours we need to be open and trying to work accordingly. During the summer we will probably stay open later with all of the local events going on, especially Jazz in the Park on Thursday evenings.
OMC: Do you whip up any custom cupcakes?
SH: For custom orders we do try to do as much as we can with the products we offer. We don't use fondant icing, which is that smooth rubbery icing cake decorators use. It's expensive and we find that buttercream and cream cheese frosting better compliments the taste of our cupcakes. We don't offer intricate frosting designs to keep our prices competitive, but we can offer options like decorative cupcake liners, colored frosting, and fun sprinkles for little or no extra charge. With such a huge part of our business being weddings, we certainly get asked to work with color schemes, so we make every effort to create a memorable cupcake display for our clients.
OMC: If a miracle happens and I fall in love in the coming year ... can I have some Classy Girl Cupcakes delivered to the lucky fellow?
SHL Are you hoping to fall in love in the coming year?? As cliche as it sounds, it will occur when you don't expect it! Erica met her now husband, and after a week or so introduced me to his brother, who I'm now married to. Now we're all one, big, weirdly entwined family! If this lucky guy that you fall in love with likes cupcakes (and if he didn't WHY would you love him??), then yes we would be happy to deliver to him! We deliver all over the area, so just check out our website for delivery fees and additional info. My Jeep and I have delivered from Racine to Delafield to Sheboygan, and everywhere in between. We also expect to cater your wedding cupcakes, and don't think we won't remember!
OMC: What has been your biggest cupcake challenge to date?
SH: We've been so lucky this past year, dare we say we haven't had any big challenges! Getting into the store was our biggest goal and fortunately the stars aligned at just the right time and place to make it happen. We've never worked harder in our lives, but we're having so much fun that it's all worthwhile!
OMC: Prince William and Kate Middleton have asked you to bake cupcakes for their royal wedding ... which Queen-worthy flavors would you send them?
SH: Unfortunately, that's top secret information. You'll just have to wait 'til April 29.
OMC: Do you feel the cupcake phenomenon is just that ... a fad? Or are cupcakes here to stay?
SH: Although cupcakes have really gained popularity recently, they aren't a new idea by any means. When people ask if we think cupcakes will be a fad we just remind them how long people have loved them. Desserts aren't going to go out of style any time soon, so that isn't a big concern for us. We also have a big advantage with our cheesecake cupcakes, as we are the only baker in the country to offer them. Before we opened our retail location we were happily surprised by how many people choose cupcakes over cake for various events, weddings especially. With cupcakes, you have the option of selecting more than one flavor, you avoid cake cutting charges, and they look so fun when they are out on display. I had a somewhat informal wedding, so for my reception it was nice that guests could just help themselves to as many cupcakes as they'd like throughout the night, as opposed to serving one piece of cake, in one flavor, at a designated time. Our cupcakes are also only $2 each, and we do offer reduced rates for large orders, so you are really getting more for your money when you choose cupcakes over cake. Now that we have our store, customers can pop in anytime for one cupcake or a hundred!
OMC: What's in store for Classy Girl Cupcakes in 2011? Any sweet resolutions?
SH: Hmmm ... resolutions for 2011? Well we are so excited to say we made it this far in 2010, so of course our main goal is to keep growing. Next summer and fall are looking super busy already with weddings being booked consistently, so we would like to hire additional staff and take as many orders as we can, both inside the store and out. We've had really positive feedback from customers, and are developing a loyal customer base so we want to keep that up. We're also hoping to develop a way to ship our cheesecake cupcakes and fill internet orders all over the country. We've had lots of volunteers to be guinea pigs for that endeavor! Our ultimate goal is to take over the world with cupcakes so that Erica and I never have to return to "the real world" daily grind. Oh, that and maybe earn ourselves a day off every now and again.
To say Sara is a woman of many hats would be like saying sour gummy worms are delicious: an epic understatement. Besides blogging, vlogging, tweeting and designing, she is a gal about town. Hopping, skipping and jumping all over this fair city to seek out the latest and greatest.
Since moving to Milwaukee right after high school, Sara's ADD has led her to reside in nearly every ZIP code Milwaukee has to offer. She recently moved from the Third Ward to Shorewood, and though the quieter scene isn't sucking, she vows to prove the burbs' swagger is right up there with the city's.
The Milwaukee area is one of many hats. And Sara's determined to try on each and every one of 'em.